Whether growing plants in greenhouses or out in the ground, it’s common to complain that we don’t have the space we need. The more I garden, the more I find that making the most of my gardening space is an enjoyable challenge. Some years produce greater success than others; here are some tips based upon my experience.
Make every inch count. Sometimes, the most basic concepts are easy to miss. Make nonproductive spaces, such as aisles, as narrow as possible. Don’t forget vertical space, and succession-crop to the max. This year I sowed beets and radish seeds together. A month after we ate the radishes, I now have a splendid row of baby beets ready to harvest. As soon as one crop goes, plant another. After we picked peas, that row was re-planted with Brussels Sprout seedlings grown in the shadow of the lettuce. In the Northeast, successive sowings of quick-growers such as many greens can be made until early September—and fortunately, appreciate some shade in hot weather.
Eat your weeds. This just sounds radical. Common garden weeds, such as dandelion, purslane, lamb’s quarters, sorrel and amaranth are regularly consumed in other cultures, and are both delicious and highly nutritious. Spring would not feel right to me without at least one good dandelion salad (with warm bacon dressing.) And even The Joy of Cooking lists purslane as an ingredient in their recipe for tabouleh. For culinary purposes harvest these plants when young; also a perfect time to remove them from your garden rows! Remember that the closer everything is planted–within reason– the fewer opportunities weeds will have to grow, as weeds generally prefer sunlight.
Welcome some volunteers. Dill and cilantro are two that show up in our vegetable patch each year. Their distinctive foliage makes them easy to recognize, and they save having to sow more seed. Not all volunteers are this valuable; with tomato seedlings, you never know what you’re going to get.
Make the most of containers. Their advantages include: fitting into the best sunny spots whether or not there’s a garden bed there, making your plants less accessible to garden pests including rabbits, cats and small dogs—even deer, and adding an ornamental touch to your garden, particularly when edible and ornamental plants are combined.
Sometimes we just have to embrace and enjoy the limitations life hands us—ask any gardener who finds their garden overwhelmingly large—they’ll confirm just how fortunate you are.